Notes from the 2017 New England Studies Program

By Gail Laird

The Historic New England Organization is the oldest, and most comprehensive regional heritage organization in our nation. They bring history to life while preserving the past for everyone interested in exploring the authentic New England experience. Historic New England owns and operates thirty-seven historic sites in five states.  The region’s rich history is shared through their collections, programs, properties, and family stories that document more than four hundred years of life in New England.

They serve the public through five key areas: Historic Properties, Collections, Education Programs, Preservation Services, and Archives and Publications.

This year as a co-owner of Halliday House and due to my ongoing interest in New England homes, gardens, and furnishings I took part in their 6 day Study Program. I was delighted to experience the history of how New England houses were formed and how people used materials to make these houses into homes.

I hope you enjoy seeing and reading the notes from each day of our tour as much as I did being there.

Day 2

Morning lectures:

Eighteenth-Century Architecture

James L. Garvin, State Architectural Historian (retired), New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources

New England House and Home

Jane C. Nylander, President Emerita, Historic New England


Tour of Moffatt-Ladd House (1763)

Barbara McLean Ward, Ph.D., Director and Curator, Moffatt-Ladd House and Garden and James L. Garvin

Tour of Lady Pepperrell House (1760)

Reception at the home of Jane C. Nylander and Richard C. Nylander

“Eighteenth Century Piscataqua”.  Our group met at the Otis House for the bus to Portsmouth, NH where our first lecture was about 18th C architecture by James Garvin, State Historian (retired), NH Division of Historical  Resources.  A tour of the Moffatt-Ladd House, 1763 followed, led by Barbara Ward and James Garvin.  In the grander homes of the 18th Century, we can view the tea service and how that would have been served.  In a more informal room with bright green woodwork, we see a pair of Windsor armchairs near a fireplace along with a spinning wheel.  Fireplaces were used for cooking and for heat, some only for heat with cooking allowed only in certain rooms.  In order to keep heat inside, shutters were used to cover most or all of the glass windows.  Children were relegated  to top floor rooms where their beds, personal belongings and toys were housed.  I am always intrigued by the toys of the time, how few or how many, the colorful and the educational, complete with a tea set and dolls similar to these.  It seems that toys were practical in nature, either to teach or to help children to create, rather than time fillers.
After the tour, we lunched at the home in an historical barn which had been moved to the site.  Jane Nylander lectured on “New England House and Home”.   Always inspiring, she showed through slides the glorified pictures of early New England life and spoke of the hardships as well.
A short bus ride to Kittery Point, ME was followed by a visit to the Lady Pepperrell House and Gardens,  1760.  Since this home is an easement house and owned by others, we were not allowed to take photos, but I can describe the beauty of the home and land.  One thing that struck me is that all the paint on the exterior of the buildings was the same light buttery yellow color–trim and all.  And it was striking as a contrast to the green of the lawns and the vibrant colors of the flowers.  We learned that the vast porch was added later, after the death of Lady Pepperrell who was a Loyalist and retained her title even after the Revolution.
The day was wrapped up with a reception at the home of Jane and Richard Nylander in their early American home and lovely gardens.  An exquisite day!


Moffatt-Ladd House

Marble Fireplace

Paint color accurate

Toy room

Interior shutters

Tea Time in Late afternoon or early evening

Trundle bed on 3rd floor

Lady Pepperrell House

Day 1

Morning lectures:

How Colonial New England Became Britain’s Pottery Barn

Cary Carson, Vice President, Research Division (retired), Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Seventeenth-Century Architecture

Claire Dempsey, Associate Professor of American and New England Studies, Boston University


Boardman House (c. 1687), Saugus, Mass., and Gedney House (1665), Salem, Mass.

Cary Carson and Ben Haavik, Team Leader, Property Care, Historic New England

The Boardman House was erected in 1692 with additions in 1696.
As you can see in the picture, three centuries of walls show in the doorway to the front room. Notice the enormous beams used in construction and the fact that the same beams could be cut away to make room for taller people. The fireplace used for heating and cooking dominates the room.

Next 17th C home tour was the Gedney in Salem, MA. built 1665.  The photo at the bottom on the lower right, shows 17th C and later 18th C lathe and plaster boards and the historic progression (right to left) of the manufacture of nails. Since both home tours were designed to show New England Architecture elements the interior had been stripped of plaster walls, etc to show structural elements.

Both lecturers focused on 17th C New England Architecture and methods of building.  The main lecturer now retired from Colonial Williamsburg (Vice President of research division), Cary Carson, responded when I asked him how he got into this work, that he started at Winterthur and just couldn’t stop.  He guesses he was a born archeologist.

Boardman House

Early Nails

Enormous beams

Gedney at Salem, MA.

Gedney at Salem, MA.


Gedney at Salem, MA.

Stone Benches

Interior of walls